John McCroskey Commentary: Who’s at Fault for Early Release of Prisoners? How About the Governor?


Last Saturday’s Chronicle carried the story under the headline “Governor Inslee Impatient to Hold State Employees Accountable for DOC’s Early Release of Inmates.”

But as the story points out, on the “advice of investigators” he’s waiting to take action. As was widely reported earlier, this was a problem that has gone on for years, people knew about it, went so far as to seek legal advice about it, and yet it simply wasn’t fixed.

In the meantime the governor’s Department of Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke testified before a legislative hearing, apologized and said “It’s probably the largest single error I’ve ever heard of agency history in the sense of its impacts to public safety.”

I don’t really think it takes much of an investigation to realize it’s a failure of leadership.

But these days the buck no longer stops at the top. If the governor really found it as maddening as he suggests, and really didn’t know about it, whoever did and didn’t tell him should be gone as a start.

But some editorials across the state laid the blame squarely on the governor, and I do too.  

I still find it interesting that this was so low on anyone’s priority list. 

Reducing populations in prison is something the governor wants, and this certainly did that.


In a related (because it’s another state agency with less than stellar leadership) but not surprising story, after seven months the indicted Democratic auditor, Troy Kelley, came back to work. He is of course entitled to a trial and is innocent until he is proven guilty, but he was indicted on some pretty serious charges. Now, in order to try to prevent his impeachment for abandoning his job, he came back to work rather than resign.

We should all have confidence that the elected leader of the government agency, charged with keeping other government agencies honest, has been indicted for money laundering, possession of stolen money, tax and perjury, and is back on the job.

I know I feel better he’s back on the job.

Our Legislature will have to waste valuable time to impeach him.  And they should if this alleged scofflaw won’t resign for the good of the office.


I remember years ago fighting with the Timberland Regional Library board over the access to porn on the public library computers. It was a contentious issue, with the library defending the practice and objecting to even some form of filters being put on the computers to prevent it.

There were stories of children accidently viewing the screen as someone was viewing this stuff and parents who objected and didn’t get much help (or sympathy) from library staff. We even had registered sex offenders using these computers because law enforcement couldn’t easily track the information. 

At the time I was one of several sheriffs concerned about, and baffled by their objection to even basic filters. In the end I think they did make some changes and the problem either went away or people just got tired of fighting over it and gave up.

So it was tragic irony that the business manager from Timberland was recently caught up in a prostitution and sex-trafficking sting operation in King County. There is as far as we know any connection to his alleged activity and the library computers.  But it certainly was an unfortunate turn of events for the Timberland system.


Dan Mortensen, the longtime police chief of Morton, retired and was simultaneously sworn in as the town’s new mayor. I have a hard time recalling a time when Dan wasn’t the chief, and his lengthy tenure is a testament to his commitment to the town. Dan was always one of the good guys, and I certainly wish him and his wife well as they move into this next phase of life.


John McCroskey was Lewis County sheriff from 1995 to 2005. He lives outside Chehalis, and can be contacted at


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